Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thought for today

"This is what the LORD says to you, house of David:

“‘Administer justice every morning;
rescue from the hands of their oppressors
those who have been robbed,
or my wrath will break out and burn like fire
because of the evil you have done—
burn with no one to quench it.
I will punish you as your deeds deserve,
declares the LORD.
I will kindle a fire in your forests
that will consume everything around you.’”"—Jeremiah 21:12, 14 TNIV

<idle musing>
Hmmm. Do you get the idea that maybe justice matters to God?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Maybe I'm all wet here

but, all this hoopla amongst Reformed folks about Rob Bell's book strikes me as ironic. Usually Wesleyan-Arminian folks are the ones being accused of being universalists (they aren't, by the way), but this appears to be a in-house fight.

That being said, I can sympathize with the poor Calvinist here. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they take the wrath of God seriously—and they do—and the love of God seriously—and they do—what are their options? They believe that God, in some mysterious way for purposes known only to him, chose some to be saved (some Calvinists go further and say he chose others to be condemned). How do you reconcile these? I know the mental gymnastics and theological arguments, but they fail to convince me.

The Wesleyan, on the other hand, doesn't need to consider the universalist option. They believe that God, by his prevenient grace (grace that comes before), raises a person from depravity far enough that they are able to make an informed decision for or against God. Mind you, this is all by grace! But, it is a real decision. The sinner chose to reject God. Now, I would go a step further and agree with Augustine that the Holy Spirit is "the hound of heaven," in other words, he doesn't give up, but keeps pursuing the sinner.

Just an
</idle musing>

A link or two a day...

It's nice to see Peter Kirk blogging again, especially when he says things like he did today:

The furore about Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” has drawn a lot of attention to hell. But surely we Christians should be focusing our attention elsewhere. For John Wesley was surely right...

By salvation I mean, not barely, according to the vulgar notion, deliverance from hell, or going to heaven; but a present deliverance from sin, a restoration of the soul to its primitive health, its original purity; a recovery of the divine nature; the renewal of our souls after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness, in justice, mercy, and truth.

— From John Wesley’s “A Further Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion

<idle musing>
Yes. We would do well to dig a bit more into Wesley; he had a better grasp of salvation than many today. Of course, when you look at the reformers, you find they were not just concerned with salvation by grace, but with sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit, too. Why did that part get lost by many who claim descent from them today?
</idle musing>

Wise words from Larry Hurtado and David Meadows about the latest "find" in the Middle East—and just in time for Easter, too. How convenient. Here's Hurtado's words:

I don’t like being played with when it comes to scholarly issues. I don’t see the point of fellow scholars speculating in the press as to what these items “might” be. Why play into the game of those who hold the items and could, if they really wish to do so, simply make them available for competent analsys? I understand that it’s flattering for scholars to be approached by the press for comment on something (anything!). But instead, we should all simply say, “No comment until the items are placed into the hands of competent experts.” I tire quickly of the self-serving antics of the people who claim to be in possession of items of great scholarly significance but prefer to conduct their business through press releases instead of inviting competent testing and analysis.

<idle musing>
Maybe Eisenbrauns should publish everything in lead? Our tomes are weighty enough :)
</idle musing>

Roger Olson is clarifying the difference between a neo-fundamentalist and what he calls postconservative Evangelicals (I would just call them traditional Evangelicals...):

The neo-fundamentalists are recognizable among the conservatives by their aggressive behavior toward fellow evangelicals, their willingness sometimes to use underhanded means to “win,” their inclusion of non-essentials of doctrine among the essentials of Christian orthodoxy and their obsession with “evangelical boundaries” with the clear intention of excluding people from evangelicalism who grew up in it, have always been part of it, are influential within it, but whom they consider doctrinally unsound using extremely narrow definitions of doctrinal soundness.

<idle musing>
A sane voice! Do read all of this and other recent stuff he's posted. He may be a voice crying in the wilderness, but he needs to be heard.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Final DJD volumes finally

I meant to post this last week and forgot. The final two volumes of the Discoveries in the Judean Desert (DJD) were finally published and arrived last Friday. The copyright date says 2010, but they just were printed recently. This marks the end of the series, as far as I can tell. Initially they thought it would take what, 10 years? Well, 1947-2011 is a bit longer than 10 years—more like 64 years, but it beat the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary!

Here's a question, though: how many of the original editors are still alive? The only one I can think of is Frank Moore Cross. Is there anybody else?

Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, XXXII

Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, XXXII
Qumran Cave 1. II: The Isaiah Scrolls: Part 1: Caves and Transcriptions
Discoveries in the Judaean Desert - DJD 32
Edited by Eugene Ulrich and Peter W. Flint
Oxford University Press, 2010
176 pages with 61 color and 22 b/w plates, English
ISBN: 9780199566662
Your Price: $180.00

Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, XXXII

Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, XXXII
Qumran Cave 1. II: The Isaiah Scrolls: Part 2: Introductions, Commentary, and Textual Variants
Discoveries in the Judaean Desert - DJD 32
Edited by Eugene Ulrich and Peter W. Flint
Oxford University Press, 2010
240 pages, English
ISBN: 9780199566679
Your Price: $145.00

Monday, March 28, 2011

And then there is this...

article in the Wall Street Journal: "Book retailer Borders Group Inc., which is shuttering hundreds of stores in a bid to stay alive, is seeking bankruptcy court approval to hand out as much as $8.3 million in executive bonuses, including nearly $1.7 million to President Mike Edwards."

<idle musing>
Let me get this straight. Upper management drives the company into bankruptcy—and gets paid a bonus for doing so. OK, I understand; I think they call it trickle down economics: the workers get peed on...I wonder if they are familiar with this text:

Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self–indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.—James 5:4-5 TNIV

<idle musing>

I couldn't have said it better myself

than this bookseller did:

Let’s also dispel a very common and inaccurate misconception: just because one company closes does not mean that people will flock to their competition. IE: Borders impending doom does not mean that people will flock to Russo’s Books or Barnes & Noble. I’m so over this so called customer loyalty. Customer loyalty has gone the way of chivalry. We'll all want to believe it, we’ve heard of it, and we love to wax nostalgia over it, but its gone man. Gone. Customers are loyal to their pocketbooks. Game. Set. Match. I know, I know there are your exceptions and I appreciate you. But for the other 98%… spare me.

And, on their frontpage:

"The Russo's family and our staff send best wishes to our bookselling brethren at Borders for a long battle well-fought and encourage our community to hold on to what it still has... support your libraries, B&N, & of course, your local, independent bookstore (sorry folks, Amazon is not part of our community)."

<idle musing>
Yep. I couldn't have said it better, so I won't even try...
</idle musing>

Friday, March 25, 2011

I'm going to jail

Yep; you read that right. I've been "drafted" to go to jail on April 13. You can see all the details here: Kosciusko, IN Lock-Up 2011: James Spinti. I'm supposed to raise $1600 to get free. I know some of you would rather I never got out, but that's another story all together! Can you help? The cash goes to the Muscular Dystrophy Association; I get to go home :)

What's up with Wisconsin?

I commented on Wisconsin a while ago. I wasn't going to say anything more—even though I could :) But, today, I saw this, which got me steamed again. You should definitely take the time to read the whole post (it's long), but here's a short snippet:

My most important observation is that I find it simply outrageous that the Wisconsin Republican Party would seek to employ the state’s Open Records Law for the nakedly political purpose of trying to embarrass, harass, or silence a university professor (and a citizen) who has asked legitimate questions and identified potentially legitimate criticisms concerning the influence of a national organization on state legislative activity. I’m offended by this not just because it’s yet another abuse of law and procedure that has seemingly become standard operating procedure for the state’s Republican Party under Governor Walker, but because it’s such an obvious assault on academic freedom at a great research university that helped invent the concept of academic freedom way back in 1894.

<idle musing>
He isn't even a Democrat and he isn't against the Republicans. He just published a study guide on his blog and did an op-ed on the NY Times site. If that is how you treat people who are conducting research, what do you think is happening to "serious" opposition? I've mentioned it before

Oh, on a side note, did you see this one?

As an aside, I've been involved in GOP politics here in Indiana for 18 years, and I think that the situation in WI presents a good opportunity for what's called a "false flag" operation. If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions' cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the public unions. Currently the media is painting the union protest as a democratic uprising and failing to mention the role of the DNC and umbrella union organizations in the protest. Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions.

Sounds like a page right out of Hitler's playbook, doesn't it? I'm not suggesting they are Nazi's, so don't misread that! What I am saying is that the techniques are similar. It does raise the question as to whether or not the goals are similar, though, doesn't it?...just an
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Insult the poor at your own risk

“If you insult the poor, you insult God. The principle is that God personally identifies very closely with the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant, the most powerless and vulnerable members of society. When the Old Testament says God identifies with the poor that is a strong statement. But it still is basically a figure of speech. Not until you come to the New Testament can you fully grasp the degree to which God has done this.

“In Proverbs we see God identifying with the poor symbolically. But in the incarnation and death of Jesus we see God identifying with the poor and marginal literally.”— Generous Justice, page 185

<idle musing>
That's the end of the excerpts from Keller's book. I'm not sure what I'll be extracting from next. I'm currently reading at a very slow rate due to other things going on, but maybe I'll extract from A Severe Mercy...we'll see.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The role of the strong

“The strong must disadvantage themselves for the weak, the majority for the minority, or the community frays and the fabric breaks.”— Generous Justice, page 180

<idle musing>
That's quite a prescription! But, the alternative looks pretty bleak, doesn't it? I once heard someone joke that of course the meek will inherit the earth—they will be the only ones left after everybody else destroys each other!
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

"Don't ever become a pessimist... a pessimist is correct oftener than an
optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march
of events."--Robert A Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

And what color state are you from?

“ current political framework can fully convey the comprehensive Biblical vision of justice, and Christians should never identify too closely with a particular political party or philosophy.

“Many churches have uncritically adopted a liberal political agenda, one that has a very expansive view of government. Others adopt a politically conservative approach to justice, one that insists that poverty, at least in America, is not the result of unjust laws, social structures, and racism, but only a matter of family breakdown. As we have seen, the Biblical material is too nuanced and balance to fit neatly into either of these schemas. And if we tie the Bible too tightly to any particular economic system or set of public policies, it bestows divine authority on that system.”— Generous Justice, pages 163-164

<idle musing>
If only we listened to such sage advice. I know I am guilty of reading in a certain direction—bet you can't guess which one :)

We have a high and holy calling that far transcends the current political climate. What's that old Anabaptist line? "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity" is how it goes, I think. (I've heard it attributed to Wesley, but don't remember seeing it in anything of his that I've read.) Now, if only we could agree on what the essential are!
</idle musing>

Reclaiming Pietism

Roger Olson has a long, but very much worthwhile, post on reclaiming pietism. Here's a nice little snippet, but do read the whole thing; I doubt you will regret it!

According to Spener and all Pietists, the gospel aims at transformation of the inner man; it is not enough for the outer man to confess doctrines correctly or practice charity or engage rightly in sacraments and liturgy. If the inner man of the person is not transformed by the Word and Spirit, all those activities of the outer man, though performed to perfection, are useless.

And, a bit further down:

Too often pastors and congregational leaders are so frightened of fanaticism and religious weirdness that they back away entirely from the whole idea of experiencing God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. But this is to ignore the natural craving to feel something and be changed that lies deep within the human breast. We are not made to live by doctrines and ceremonies alone; while we are shoving religious experience (except perhaps a quiet Yoga meditation class in the basement) out the door, people are seeking spiritual experience wherever they can find it. Pietism insists that authentic Christianity will always include an appeal to affections and not only intellect or will. Pietist scholar Hansgünter Ludewig’s description of Pietist Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769) well expresses the longing of most, if not every, human heart: “His quest was less for a gracious God than for the presence of God. He desired to know by living experience that God is with him.” Many, if not most, people today are, like Tersteegen, less concerned about issues of guilt and justification than about issues of God’s personal presence with and in them. Pietism points the way toward a non-fanatical, experiential Christianity that brings transformation and assurance through a personal relationship with God that is felt and not only promised.

And, near the end:

Pietism aims at the inward transformation of the affections leading to change of the will resulting in acts of compassion.  Too often our churches try to manipulate congregants into giving and working because there is no inner impulse giving rise gratefully and voluntarily to these practices.  A dose of spiritual experience brought about through repentance and faith in response to powerful preaching of the cross just might result in more kingdom building than all the appeals we make in our newsletters and from our pulpits.

<idle musing>
Sounds like a good, biblically based, definition of true Christianity to me, with a healthy dose of Holy Spirit transformation that results in a natural concern for the community around them...We could use a good bit of that, don't you think?
</idle musing>

Monday, March 21, 2011

Systemic evil

“Most of the time systemic evil is simpler and more subtle. Failing schools and inadequate police protection in poor neighborhoods is far more common. It is often the result of unjust neglect. Our political and economic systems do not listen to people without money and other forms of social power. The residents of poor communities do not have either the influence or the skills to attract more private and public resources to come into their community. They need help, but it can't come merely in the form of relief and development. Someone must resist and change the legal, political, and social systems.”— Generous Justice, pages 129-130

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! No need for a conspiracy theory, just follow the money, no power in this world's system.
</idle musing>


Scot McKnight makes an important observation about worship:

But “belief” is not “worship,” and so Volf carefully spells out the meaning of “worship”: and here he departs from the populist mode of thinking, which sees worship as raising hands in a “worship” service and expands the word to its biblical proportions: it is how we live. What we worship and how we worship tell us who our God is. I totally agree with him here: our worship reveals our God.

<idle musing>
This is huge. In our culture of intellectual assent to a set of doctrines, or “feel-good” music sessions (commonly called worship!), we need to recapture the essence of worship. Someone may say they worship Jesus, but what does their life show? What does my life show? If it doesn't reflect Jesus, then something is wrong!
</idle musing>

Friday, March 18, 2011

Serving...or controlling?

“It is difficult not to think of the elder brother in Jesus's parable of the prodigal son. The people God addresses, like the elder brother, complain that God is not doing their will, and that they deserve his support since they have been so obedient. But the truth is that their obedience is only formal and external; it is filled with self-righteousness and is motivated by a desire to control God, not actually serve him. Such people show they are complying with religious observances as a way of 'getting ahead' with God and others. This deadly spiritual condition shows itself in a lack of loving service toward others, and particularly an indifference to the poor.”— Generous Justice, pages 96-97

<idle musing>
This sounds like his book The Prodigal God, which I blogged through a while back. Still true today.
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Whose advantage?

“Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke concludes, after studying both the word mishpat and its kindred word tzadeqah (righteousness), that in the Old Testament
the righteous [tzaddiq]...are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community; the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.”
Generous Justice, page 90

<idle musing>
Wow! That is a heavy thought and a high calling. Am I willing to disadvantage myself for the advantage of the community? If I have the mind of Christ, I should be...
</idle musing>

So that's what e-readers are for!

Here is the source—a great librarians (and booksellers, too!) strip.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's all a gift

“...God gave humanity authority over the world's resources but not ownership. We have received what we have in the way a fund manager receives other people's money to invest, or as, in ancient times, the steward of an estate received his authority over the estate. The steward of a great estate lived comfortably and enjoyed the fruits of his labor, but he never made the mistake of thinking that the wealth under his care was all his. He was tasked to manage it in a way that pleased the owner and was fair to his fellow servants.

“This concept is counterintuitive for most Americans. We believe that if we have had success in life, it is mainly the result of our own hard work, and we therefore have an absolute right to use our money as we see fit. But while the Bible agrees industriousness or the lack of it is an irreplaceable part of why you are successful or not (Proverbs 6:9-11; 10:4), it is never the main reason...In short, all your resources are in the end the gift of God.”— Generous Justice, pages 88-89

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! We are called to use our resources wisely—all of them—and for the furtherance of God's kingdom, not our own. Reminds me of a recent post with a quotation from Finney.

I wonder how Keller would feel if he knew I just tied him to Finney :)
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Knowing versus doing

“You could make a good argument that our problem in society today is not that people don't know they should share with others and help the poor. Most people do know and believe this. The real problem is that, while knowing it, they are insufficiently motivated to actually do it.”— Generous Justice, page 79

<idle musing>
Too is easy to give assent to it and say a little prayer—and then go on with life as if that took care of everything. James says something about that:
"Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?"—James 2:15-16 TNIV
The Greek looks like this:
ἐὰν ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἀδελφὴ γυμνοὶ ὑπάρχωσιν καὶ λειπόμενοι τῆς ἐφημέρου τροφῆς εἴπῃ δέ τις αὐτοῖς ἐξ ὑμῶν· ὑπάγετε ἐν εἰρήνῃ, θερμαίνεσθε καὶ χορτάζεσθε, μὴ δῶτε δὲ αὐτοῖς τὰ ἐπιτήδεια τοῦ σώματος, τί τὸ ὄφελος;
</idle musing>

Cottage cheese

I modified the cottage cheese recipe that I used the other day. I know at least one person asked for it (Hi Renee!), so in the interest of spreading knowledge, here it is. If something seems less than obvious, it probably is, so feel free to point it out in the comments :)

First, the normal caveats for making cheese and yogurt:
Use clean utensils (because cottage cheese isn't aged, you don't need to bleach them).
Don't ever use aluminum; use stainless steel whenever possible, although enamelware works, too.

You will need:
8 quart or larger pot
thermometer that reads 75-125º F (I use a digital thermometer)
long stainless steel knife to cut the curds
butter muslin
colander (stainless steel)
large mixing bowl
1 gallon milk
¼ rennet tablet
non-iodized salt

There are three ways to heat the milk:
1.Double boiler
2.Via a hot water bath in the sink
3.Directly over the burner—this is only practical on gas stoves, as you will need to quickly adjust the heat up and down, even shutting it off at times. I prefer this method after experimenting with all three methods.

If you are using raw milk, strain the cream off into a pint jar and set aside.

Dissolve ¼ rennet tablet in two tablespoons of water. Set aside.

Pour 1 gallon milk into pot. Heat the milk to 80º F, being careful not to scorch the milk if you are using the direct heating method. Add the rennet solution, stirring well. Cover and let the solution sit for about ½ hour, or until the curd separates cleanly when cut by the knife (sort of like a putting a knife in a cake to check for doneness. Some day I'll post a picture...).

Cut the curd. Take the knife and cut into ½ inch squares, keeping the knife as vertical as possible Then, angle your knife and cut it again both ways; you are cutting the curds into ½ inch cubes. Let the curds rest for 10 minutes, then gently stir with your hands. The whey will have begun to separate from the curds.

Raise the temperature slowly to 100º F at the rate of 1º every 2 minutes, stirring gently every few minutes to keep the curd from sticking together. If you raise the temperature too quickly, the curd will toughen and not taste good.

Raise the temperature to 115º F at the rate of 1º every minute., stirring frequently. The curds will shrink dramatically and the greenish looking whey will be about ¾ of the mixture.

Ladle the whey into 3-one quart jars until most of it is off the curds. You can put a piece of butter muslin over the jar to preserve the curds that get into the ladle. We use the whey for soup base, in bread instead of water, and feed it to the cats; some people pour it on their garden. Of course, some people just let it go down the drain. I haven't tried it yet, but you can make ricotta cheese out of the whey...

Line the colander with the butter muslin and pour the curds into the colander and allow to drain for a minute or two. If you let them drain too long, they will stick together.

Gather the corners of the butter muslin and dip the curds into very cold water several times. Return the muslin to the colander and rinse with very cold water until the water runs clean. Gather the corners of the muslin again and allow the water to drain out; you can squeeze gently. When water no longer drains out, it is done.

Dump the curds into a mixing bowl. Add about 1 tsp of non-iodized salt (most recipes call for 2 tsp, but we have found that to be too salty) and mix well with your hands. Add about 2/3-3/4 (1-1.5 cups) of the cream back in and mix well. You can add half-and-half or regular milk instead, if you want a lower fat cottage cheese or if you are using homogenized milk.

Store the cottage cheese in 2 wide mouth pint jars in the refrigerator for up to about 5 days.

The whole process takes about one-and-a-half to two hours from start to finish. Most of the time is just waiting time, though.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Vulnerable people

“One of the four vulnerable classes protected by the Hebrew prophets was that of the immigrant. While foreigners residing in Israel could convert, the injunction to provide them with shelter and guard their legal rights was not qualified by whether they had entered the covenant or not. That showed that Israel's justice and compassion was not to be confined to only its own believing community.”— Generous Justice, page 61

<idle musing>
I've been looking at 3 main words in the Hebrew Bible for immigrant/foreigner lately. Just so we're on the same page, the words are gēr (ֵגר), nokrī (ָנכִר), and tôšab (תֹוָשב) (not sure if the vowel points came through correctly...). I'm leaning towards translating ger as illegal immigrant, but not sure yet. TDOT calls them "protected citizens" which makes no sense to me at all.

On the other hand, nokri could well be the illegal immigrant...I need to look at the texts a bit closer. What do you think?
</idle musing>

Some interesting links

I caught up with some good posts over the weekend. Thought I might share some of them with you.

First, from Leighton at Grace Works. He muses about the form of church as seen in scripture, especially I Corinthians 12:25-27:

...we must remember that our forms and methods reflect what we value in the church. If the central expression of church requires nothing other than attendance, singing and listening from most people what message does that send? Does that communicate that there is equal concern for everyone in the body? Is it right that we value certain aspects of church ministry so much that we don’t have the time or the resources to ensure that everyone is cared for even a little bit?

Looking at this passage it is easy to gloss over it assuming Paul being unrealistically idealistic. How can everyone in the church be equally cared for? It just isn’t feasible. It isn’t unrealistic when we consider that the church in Corinth met in homes. It is easy to understand how in that setting people could have not just known one another but actually had an active concern for each other. I’ve personally observed the sincere and genuine sadness that people feel when one or more of our church members can’t make it because we tangibly feel the loss of their contribution.

Such passages of scripture seem overly idealistic when looking through the lens of contemporary church practice, but if we view it in the context of their actual church practice they are very realistic.

<idle musing>
So true. We have experienced this in house church settings and small group settings many times. As Leighton says, it is unrealistic only “ when looking through the lens of contemporary church practice.” We need to allow the Holy Spirit to set the agenda, not our customs, just as we need to do the same in our daily lives.
</idle musing>

Over at A Place for the God-Hungry, Jim Martin talks about manipulators. He starts his musings by stating, “The truth is that some manipulate and others love. Manipulators are not loving people because love is not on their agenda. Their agenda is control.” He then lists some observations about manipulators and finishes with this:

“Manipulators do not love others. They use others for their benefit. They use others to draw attention to themselves.”

He then compares that to those who love and finishes with this:

People who love do not need a lot of attention. They are not forever turning a conversation back to themselves.

<idle musing>
Good food for thought. Which one am I? And, which one are you? And, most importantly, which one is God calling us to be?
</idle musing>

Guy Muse over at the M Blog sums up how to start a house church:

There are two steps.

1) Gather people.
2) Make disciples.

Both are bathed in prayer day and night.

<idle musing>
He fills in some, but that's the core, isn't it? Mind you, the “bathed in prayer” part is essential! Otherwise you end up with another social club. I notice that Alan picked this one up, too.
</idle musing>

Speaking of Alan, he takes a look at what the Didache has to say about church. He compares that to Hebrews 10 and another early church document, the Epistle of Barnabas. Amazingly, he finds they stress the same thing:

...the instructions were given to all the readers, not just the leaders. (That’s true of Hebrews, the Didache, and Barnabas – all written to and addressed to all believers, not just to overseers, elders, deacons, teachers, prophets, apostles, etc.)

Should we still expect these same types of phrases to describe our gatherings? Is it still the responsibility of all the believers, or just the leaders?

<idle musing>
You know the answer :) By the way, the Didache is a great way to expand your knowledge of Koiné; it is similar enough to the New Testament that the vocabulary and syntax carry over. But, because most people aren't familiar with it, they are actually forced to read the Greek. Most people reading the Greek New Testament are only half reading the Greek; the rest is remembered from the English—at least that's been my experience in teaching it over the years...

Well, this post got longer than I planned, but I hope you enjoyed the spin around a few blogs.
</idle musing>

Friday, March 11, 2011

The two sides of sin

“It is not just political parties that fail to reflect this 'whole cloth' Biblical agenda. The churches of America are often more controlled by the surrounding political culture than by the spirit of Jesus and the prophets. Conservative churches tend to concentrate on one set of sins, while liberal ones concentrate on another set. Jesus, like the Old Testament prophets, does not see two categories of morality. In Amos 2:7, we read, 'They trample the heads of the poor; father and son go in to the same girl.' The prophet condemns social injustice and sexual licentiousness in virtually the same breath (cf. Isaiah 5:8ff.). Such denunciations cut across all current conventional political agendas. The Biblical perspective sees sexual immorality and material selfishness as both flowing from self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness.”— Generous Justice, page 55

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! I'm loving this book...
</idle musing>

Amazon again

I read this in Shelf Awareness today:

"Teicher [CEO of American Booksellers Association] also took aim at, saying, 'Those companies that would fire their affiliates simply to maintain an inequitable competitive advantage over retailers that obey the law clearly show their true colors. A belief that laws apply only to those who are smaller or who are unwilling to resort to threats or loopholes is characteristic of the worst sort of corporate citizen. We certainly hope companies like rethink their decision to fire affiliates, and we remain grateful that the governor [of Illinois] took the tough, principled stand on behalf of in-state retailers.'"

<idle musing>
Well put! Mind you, I'm not defending sales tax, but fairness.
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 10, 2011

First they came

First They came... - Pastor Martin Niemoller
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

<idle musing>
Today, we would need to reword it a bit. The communists is pretty much dead, so we can drop that. The trade unionist is happening right now. The Jews has become the Muslims, and that is happening right now, as well. Guess who's next?

By the way, Niemoller spent 8 years in a concentration camp because he wouldn't knuckle under. He was one of the founders of the Confessing Church that included Bonhoeffer. The Confessing Church stood against the blending of government and the church—sound familiar?
</idle musing>

The form of religion

“Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Micah all leveled the charge that, while the people attended worship, observed all religious regulations, and took pride in their Biblical knowledge, nevertheless they took advantage of the weak and vulnerable. The prophets concluded that, therefore, their religious activity was not just insufficient, but deeply offensive to God.”— Generous Justice, pages 49-50

<idle musing>
Walk the walk, or don't talk the talk, in other words.
</idle musing>

Big brother really is watching you

if you own a Kindle™, that is:

...I'm reading a new book I downloaded on my Kindle and I noticed an underlined passage. It is surely a mistake, I think. This is a new book. I don't know about you, but I always hated underlined passages in used books. They derail my private enjoyment.

When somebody offers perception of what's important, something moronic, usually, which is why I always prefer buying books new so I could make my own moronic marks. But moronic or not, it was all between me and my new book.

And this thing on my Kindle is supposed to be new. And then I discovered that the horror doesn't stop with the unwelcomed presence of another reader who's defaced my new book. But it deepens with something called view popular highlights, which will tell you how many morons have underlined before so that not only you do not own the new book you paid for, the entire experience of reading is shattered by the presence of a mob that agitates inside your text like strangers in a train station.

<idle musing>
Isn't that nice? You get the privilege of having them get access to all your notes and thoughts. Just think of the advertising information they can sell! And, think of the future court subpoenas for access to that data! Such a deal! I suspect you can hardly wait to be the victim—oops, I mean, consumer—of a Kindle™!
</idle musing>


Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.
The LORD protects and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.—Psalm 41:1-2 TNIV

Of course, that means that the ones who don't regard the weak are in for a bit of a rough ride...which brings me to the point of this post, and I can't say it any better than Joel, so I won't try:

I want to be mean, but I’m not going to be.

Bypassing Democrats hiding out in Illinois, Wisconsin Senate Republicans voted Wednesday night to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Republicans voted 18-1 to pass the stripped-down budget bill in a hastily arranged meeting. None of the Senate Democrats were present.

via here.

Yes, I am. This is a coward move by the Koch Brothers funded Tea Party Governor of Wisconsin. This is dirty.

<idle musing>
The only difference is I wouldn't have linked to fake news; I would have linked to a somewhat less biased source, say AP News.

And, to add to the insult, I just saw this:

And a recent Wall Street Journal analysis found that even though productivity rose 5.2 percent from mid 2009 to the end of 2010, wages increased by just 0.3 percent. That means only 6 percent of productivity gains were shared with workers. In past recoveries, that figure has averaged 58 percent. This time around, far more of the gains went to shareholders, in the form of profits, which are at record levels.

All I can say is in se curvatus. And who doesn't believe in total depravity?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Where are the Abrahams of God?

"If there is an eternity, and I believe there is, and if there is a judgment, and I believe there is, then let us keep the immensity and gravity of it all in mind and refrain from flippancy, gloating, triumphalism — and let it reduce us to sobriety and humility and prayer. When Abraham faced the prospects of the destruction of Sodom in Genesis 18, he didn’t gloat that he was on the safe side but supplicated YHWH for mercy for those who weren’t. We need more Abrahams."— Scot McKnight concerning the arguments about Hell recently.

God of the rich...and poor

“In the religions of the surrounding cultures, the gods identified particularly with the kings and others at the top of society It made sense—the rich could build the gods magnificent temples and give sumptuous offerings. Why wouldn't they be considered the favorites of the gods? But the Biblical God is not like that at all. He does not call everyone to bring sacrifices of the same kind and value, for that would have automatically make [sic] it easier for the rich to please God. Instead, God directs that each person should bring what they can, and if their heart is right, that will give them access to his grace.”— Generous Justice, page 40

<idle musing>
On the money. In the Odyssey, Odysseus repeatedly petitions Zeus and the gods to remember all the times he sacrificed to them. He basically bought his way home—granted that it took him 20 years—but in the end his do ut des mentality was justified. Not so the biblical God. If anything, the tables are turned with the poor having preferential treatment at his hands.

What does that say about the current economic system, built as it is on greed?
</idle musing>

Sustainable agriculture

Just ran across this post about sustainable agriculture:

The oldest and most common dig against organic agriculture is that it cannot feed the world’s citizens; this, however, is a supposition, not a fact. And industrial agriculture isn’t working perfectly, either: the global food price index is at a record high, and our agricultural system is wreaking havoc with the health not only of humans but of the earth. There are around a billion undernourished people; we can also thank the current system for the billion who are overweight or obese.

Yet there is good news: increasing numbers of scientists, policy panels and experts (not hippies!) are suggesting that agricultural practices pretty close to organic — perhaps best called “sustainable” — can feed more poor people sooner, begin to repair the damage caused by industrial production and, in the long term, become the norm.

...We need a global perspective, the (moral) recognition that food is a basic right and the (practical) one that sustainability is a high priority. We want to reduce and repair environmental damage, cut back on the production and consumption of resource-intensive food, increase efficiency and do something about waste. (Some estimate that 50 percent of all food is wasted.) A sensible and nutritious diet for everyone is essential; many people will eat better, and others may eat fewer animal products, which is also a eating better.

<idle musing>
Yep. But, it won't happen because it might mean you have to give up your 2700 calories/meal restaurant "food." By, the way, that is more food than most of the world gets in a day. The reformers were right, in se curvatus—we're curved in on ourselves. Of course, if you eat too many of those meals, you will be curved out instead of in!
<idle musing>

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


“Why was it that landowners were not allowed to harvest out to the margins of their field? God did not want them to squeeze every cent of profit out of their land, and then think that by giving to charity they were doing all they could for general community welfare. The gleaning laws enabled the poor to be self-sufficient, not through getting a handout, but through their own work in the field.— Generous Justice, page 30

<idle musing>
That's good. Don't just drop the change in the offering bucket to assuage your conscience...
</idle musing>

Finney on a Tuesday

“Now can it be denied that, whenever by sin you withhold from God what is due to Him, you as really rob God as any one can steal from a merchant's drawer? God owns all men and all their services in a far higher sense than that in which any merchant owns the money in his drawer. God rightfully claims the use of all your talents, wealth, and time for Himself—for His own glory and the good of His creatures. Just so far, therefore, as you use yourselves for yourselves, you as really rob God as if you appropriated to yourself any thing that belongs of right to your neighbor.”—Charles Finney

<idle musing>
Nothing like saying it like it is, eh? Would that more christians lived like they believed it...
</idle musing>

Monday, March 07, 2011

Heresy-hunting and love

Roger Olson is wondering why we allow "heresy-hunters" so much power in the Evangelical world. Here's a short excerpt, but do read the whole thing:

...SOME evangelical administrators are all too easily swayed by fundamentalist heresy-hunters with lots of influence over people with deep pockets and people with too much time on their hands to attack fellow evangelicals. Rather than standing up and defending their own broad tent views of evangelicalism, some (not all) cave in and allow the cranky, narrow-minded, backward-looking fundamentalists to make them overly cautious in hiring and firing and publishing and granting tenure, etc.

<idle musing>
And my question is always, "Where's the love?" Many years ago, Francis Schaeffer wrote a beautiful little book entitled The Mark of a Christian; the thesis was simple: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." taken from John 13. Take the time to read it sometime—it's only 38 pages and it's on-line, too.
</idle musing>

Friday, March 04, 2011

New sale

We're running a new 10-day sale at Eisenbrauns right now: 20-50% on Syriac stuff. Here's the full announcement from BookNews:

BookNews from Eisenbrauns

I'm leaving this evening for the SECSOR regional conference in Louisville, KY. We'll be featuring the latest Eisenbrauns books, plus some great deals. If you are in the area, be sure to stop by the Galt House and browse the books.

For the next ten days, you can save 20-50% on Syriac lexica, grammars, and an alphabet book for your kids! What could be more fun?

As always, all sales on this web sale are final; no returns will be permitted. Offer is good only on orders placed at through March 13, 2011.

To go directly to the weekly sale, click on this link:
"A Syriac-English Glossary with Etymological Notes: Based on
Brockelmann's Syriac Chrestomathy"
by Moshe Goshen-Gottstein
Harrassowitz Verlag, 1970. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9783447003452
List Price: $45.00 Your Price: $36.00

"Lexicon to the Syriac New Testament: With copious references,
dictions, names of persons and places, and some various readings
found in the curetonian, sinaitic palimpsest philoxenian & other mss."
by William Jennings
Wipf and Stock, 2001. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9781579106287
List Price: $23.00 Your Price: $18.40

"A Compendious Syriac Dictionary: Founded upon
the Thesaurus Syriacus of R. Payne Smith"
by Robert Payne Smith
Edited by Jessie Payne Smith
Eisenbrauns, 1998. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575060323
List Price: $85.00 Your Price: $42.50

"A Syriac Lexicon: A Translation from the Latin, Correction,
Expansion, and Update of C. Brockelmann's Lexicon Syriacum"
by Michael Sokoloff
Eisenbrauns, 2009. Cloth. English and Syriac.
ISBN: 9781575061801
List Price: $149.50 Your Price: $104.65

"Classical Syriac: A Basic Grammar with a Chrestomathy"
by Takamitsu Muraoka
Porta Linguarum Orientalium - PLO 19
Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9783447050210
List Price: $55.00 Your Price: $44.00

"Compendious Syriac Grammar"
by Theodor Noldeke
Translated by James A. Crichton
Eisenbrauns, 2001. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575060507
List Price: $49.50 Your Price: $29.70

"The Syriac Alphabet for Children"
by George Kiraz
Gorgias Press, 2004. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9781593331122
List Price: $21.00 Your Price: $16.80


I just finished reading Keller's book Generous Justice the other day. Therefore, in the finest tradition of this blog, you will be subjected to excerpts from the book for a while :) I hope you enjoy the excerpts as much as I enjoyed the book. Thanks to Jerry Gortmaker for the copy!

“In the Scripture, gifts to the poor are called 'acts of righteousness,' as in Matthew 6:1-2. Not giving generously, then, is not stinginess, but unrighteousness, a violation of God's law. Also, we looked at Job's description of all the things he was doing in order to live a just and righteous life in Job 31. He calls every failure to help the poor a sin, offensive to God's splendor (verse 23) and deserving judgment and punishment (verse 28). Remarkably, Job is asserting that it would be a sin against God to think of his goods as belonging to himself alone.”— Generous Justice, pages 15-16

<idle musing>
Refreshing perspective, isn't it? Or is it????
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Final Drucker quote

“...individuals will increasingly have to take responsibility for their own continual learning and relearning., for their own self-development and for their own careers. They can no longer assume that what they have learned as children and youngsters will be the 'foundation' for the rest of their lives. It will be the 'launching pad'—the place to take off from rather than the place to build on and to rest on. They can no longer assume that they 'enter upon a career' that then proceeds along a predetermined, well-mapped, and well-lighted 'career path; to a known destination—what the American military calls 'progressing in grade.' The assumption from now on has to be that individuals on their own will have to find, determine, and develop a number of 'careers' during their working lives.”— The Essential Drucker, pages 325-326

<idle musing>
Scary thought, isn't it? But, stop and think about it. I'm on my fourth career now—bookseller. Granted this one builds on the previous ones, but it is a new and distinct one from the previous one of IT director. And that was different from the previous one of Operations/Warehouse manager, which was distinct from the previous one of professional student/teaching assistant. And that one had multiple jobs within it—ranging from UPS preloader to grocery stocker to handyman to working for a moving company to restaurant cook/dishwasher to...well, you get the idea.

As I say frequently, I wouldn't have chosen the path that God has had me walk—but I wouldn't change it for the world! God knows what he is doing; all I need to do is listen and obey. And, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, I will be able to do that. One thing I do know for sure: the future will be even more exciting than the present! I used to tell Ryan, our son, that life is like a backwards roller coaster; you don't know where you are going and what turns there will be along the way, but you do know you won't fall off. So, its best to just relax and enjoy the ride! Happy riding!
</idle musing>

Finney for a Thursday

“How many times have I had occasion to rebuke the unforgiving spirit! Often while in a place, laboring to promote a revival, I have seen the workings of this jealous, unforgiving spirit, and I have felt like saying, Take these things hence! Why do you get up a prayer meeting and think to pray to God when you know that you hate your brother, and know moreover that I know you do? Away with it! Let such professed Christians repent, break down get into the dust at the feet of God and men before they think to pray acceptably! Until they do thus repent all their prayers are only a 'smoke in the nose' before God.”—Charles Finney

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

March sale at Eisenbrauns

We have a great sale going on this month at Eisenbrauns. Here's the BookNews announcement:

BookNews from Eisenbrauns

What do Siphrut, Languages of the Ancient Near East (LANE), and Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic (LSAWS) have in common? They are published by Eisenbrauns and have all had recent releases; plus, LSAWS has a book in press right now. To celebrate, we are offering you a chance to save 20-50% on older titles in these series.

As always, all sales on this web sale are final; no returns will be permitted. Offer good only on orders placed at through March 31, 2011.

To easily access all the sale items, please visit:
"A Severe Mercy: Sin and Its Remedy in the Old Testament"
by Mark J. Boda
Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 1
Eisenbrauns, 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061641
List Price: $59.50 Your Price: $41.65

"Chosen and Unchosen: Conceptions of Election in the Pentateuch and Jewish-Christian Interpretation"
by Joel N. Lohr
Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 2
Eisenbrauns, 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061719
List Price: $39.50 Your Price: $27.65

"Genesis and the Moses Story: Israel's Dual Origins in the Hebrew Bible"
by Konrad Schmid
Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures 3
Eisenbrauns, 2010. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061528
List Price: $64.50 Your Price: $45.15

"The Verbless Clause in Biblical Hebrew: Linguistic Approaches"
Edited by Cynthia L. Miller
Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic - LSAWS 1
Eisenbrauns, 1999. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575060361
List Price: $49.50 Your Price: $24.75

"Phonology and Morphology of Biblical Hebrew: An Introduction"
by Joshua Blau
Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic - LSAWS 2
Eisenbrauns, 2010. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061290
List Price: $59.50 Your Price: $41.65

"A Manual of Ugaritic"
by Pierre Bordreuil and Dennis Pardee
Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic - LSAWS 3
Eisenbrauns, 2009. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061535
List Price: $69.50 Your Price: $48.65

"Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause"
by Adina Moshavi
Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic - LSAWS 4
Eisenbrauns, 2010. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061917
List Price: $42.50 Your Price: $34.00

"A Grammar of the Hittite Language, 1: Reference Grammar"
by Harry A. Hoffner Jr. and H. Craig Melchert
Languages of the Ancient Near East - LANE 1/1
Eisenbrauns, 2008. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061191
List Price: $69.50 Your Price: $48.65

"A Grammar of the Hittite Language, 2: Tutorial"
by Harry A. Hoffner Jr. and H. Craig Melchert
Languages of the Ancient Near East - LANE 1/2
Eisenbrauns, 2008. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061481
List Price: $22.50 Your Price: $15.75

"The Akkadian Verb and Its Semitic Background"
by N. J. C. Kouwenberg
Languages of the Ancient Near East - LANE 2
Eisenbrauns, 2010. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781575061931
List Price: $89.50 Your Price: $71.60

Porn is an epidemic

Porn Addiction in America
Via: Online Psychology Degree

Did you see the number of zeroes after the dollar sign? That is a testimony against the church—myself included.

compliments of Grace Works

What grammar can do for you

As I've said before, I read grammars as a hobby. I recently finished Steve Runge's excellent Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament. I won't bore you with a bunch of excerpts, but you really should read it if you know any Greek. If you don't know Greek, it could help you, but most of it would just run past you.

Anyway, here is a gem that I pulled from the book:

To infer an imperative in [Ephesians 5] v. 22 is an interpretation, unsubstantiated by the grammar. The main command is 'be filled by the Spirit,' and there is not another until v. 25: 'husbands, love your wives.' The statements to wives regarding submission are illustrating mutual submission, not singling women out. The section on submission is grammatically subordinated to the command of v. 18b.—Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 267.

<idle musing>
Thank you, Steve! I don't understand why most English translations make a new paragraph and a new section heading after verse 24. Of course, I don't like the section headings in the first place; I find they distract from the text.

On a related note, I ran a little experiment on myself recently. I found that I read more scripture at a time in a text with no section headings. It still had versification, just not as prominent and the chapter divisions were there, just smaller. I averaged about twice as much reading as in the divided up Bible. Interesting isn't it?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The common good

“But in the society of organizations, each of the new institutions is concerned only with its own purpose and mission. It does not claim power over anything else. But it also does not assume responsibility for anything else. Who then is concerned with the common good?”— The Essential Drucker, page 317

<idle musing>
This is the problem we are seeing right now. The common good is not being seen to. Everyone is chasing their own rainbow—in se curvatus—curved in on oneself. That defines our society today. But, the Christian should be different! The last pagan Roman emperor, Julian, singled out the Christians of his day as being examples of not being concerned with their own good, but with the good of others. Would that it were so today!
</idle musing>


Over the weekend I made cottage cheese. I was surprised at how easy it is to make. I haven't made cheese for quite a while now—for two reasons: 1. my starter is all old and I keep forgetting to buy new; and 2. we have a cow share for 4 gallons a week which doesn't usually leave enough extra for cheese (yes, the two of us do use that much).

But, Debbie was in Minnesota for a few weeks which allowed a surplus to build up, so I took a gallon and made cottage cheese. I have about 4 different recipes, but only one of them allows me to make it without any starter; it just called for a 1/4 tablet of rennet and a 1/2 hour of resting. First, I skimmed most of the cream off and saved it for later. This was the first time I had used raw milk, too; every other time it had been homogenized milk, which doesn't make as nice a curd. The curd set up very nicely and as I cooked the curd, oh so slowly, the curds shrank just as they should. I ladled the whey into quart jars to use later and then washed the curds in cold water, broke them up with my hand, added salt and then poured back about 1/2 the cream.

Wow! It was the best cottage cheese I have ever had. The curd was so fresh it squeaked and talk about tender. I gave some to Debbie to taste, the ultimate test :) She declared that from now on we make all our own cottage cheese.

I took a quart of the whey and made a pot of sauerkraut soup. Hey, it sounded interesting. I won't make again, though. It was edible, but not a keeper; Debbie said I could finish the rest of it, so you know it wasn't very good—and we both really like sauerkraut.

In other news, I transplanted my broccoli plants last night. They are doing very well and the roots were beginning to intermingle. I think in the future I will transplant directly into discrete pots. But, now you won't have to make my mistake :) I'm going to transplant the Roma tomatoes tonight as they are having the same issue.

I had to reseed all my pepper plants. The seed I used was 4 years old, so it isn't surprising. Last year I got about a 50% germination rate, so I figured it was worth a try. This year I got 0% germination. That puts the peppers behind about 4 weeks, but because I'm putting them in the hoop house, it won't matter.

Speaking of the hoop house, we had a very windy week here. I'm not sure how hard the wind was blowing, but it would have taken the hoop house down if I hadn't used the new metal clips. So, that was win. And, the radishes and lettuce are up, too. Apparently the -10º F weather we had 2 Wednesdays ago didn't hurt them. Right now I'm just picking spinach, but it looks like the diet will be more varied real soon now.

Oh, I ran across this today:

When we look at the controversy of gender-inclusive language and the use of plurals; the above principles come into play, as does the historical-grammatical approach, which means that God personally chose the time, the place, the language, and the culture into which his Word should be penned. Who are we to disrespect that because we wish to appease the modern man or woman, who may be offended? Their offense is nothing more than self-centeredness, refusing to wrap their mind around the idea that the Creator of all things chose the setting, the language and time in which his Word was to be introduced to man.

<idle musing>
Where to start! You can't leave a comment without logging in and I don't have an account, or I would put this little note here.

If he is that adamant about the setting and language, why do we translate at all? If we do translate, then we need to make it relevant to the target language, which, at least in 21st century North America, means gender-inclusive language. Or, to put it another way, God speaks to all his people, both male and female; I believe Paul said something to that effect about 2,000 years ago...what do you think?
</idle musing>